6 reviews

Girl With a Pearl Earring: (Deluxe Edition)
by Tracy Chevalier

Published: 2005-08-30
Paperback : 233 pages
8 members reading this now
17 clubs reading this now
29 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 6 of 6 members

Celebrate Tracy Chevalier’s modern classic Girl With A Pearl Earring, featuring a gorgeous new edition illustrated with eight pages of Vermeer’s masterworks. History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening.  The story of Griet, ...

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Celebrate Tracy Chevalier’s modern classic Girl With A Pearl Earring, featuring a gorgeous new edition illustrated with eight pages of Vermeer’s masterworks. History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening.  The story of Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with a genius as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil, is new again.

A Deluxe Edition of the National Bestseller with Over 2 Million Copies Sold:

  • Eight Pages of Full-Color Plates Include Every Vermeer Painting Discussed in the Book
  • French Flaps
  • Rough Front
  • a New Foreword

Editorial Review

With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries--and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier's second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant--and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model. Chevalier vividly evokes the complex domestic tensions of the household, ruled over by the painter's jealous, eternally pregnant wife and his taciturn mother-in-law. At times the relationship between servant and master seems a little anachronistic. Still, Girl with a Pearl Earring does contain a final delicious twist.

Throughout, Chevalier cultivates a limpid, painstakingly observed style, whose exactitude is an effective homage to the painter himself. Even Griet's most humdrum duties take on a high if unobtrusive gloss:

I came to love grinding the things he brought from the apothecary--bones, white lead, madder, massicot--to see how bright and pure I could get the colors. I learned that the finer the materials were ground, the deeper the color. From rough, dull grains madder became a fine bright red powder and, mixed with linseed oil, a sparkling paint. Making it and the other colors was magical.
In assembling such quotidian particulars, the author acknowledges her debt to Simon Schama's classic study The Embarrassment of Riches. Her novel also joins a crop of recent, painterly fictions, including Deborah Moggach's Tulip Fever and Susan Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Can novelists extract much more from the Dutch golden age? The question is an open one--but in the meantime, Girl with a Pearl Earring remains a fascinating piece of speculative historical fiction, and an appealingly new take on an old master. --Jerry Brotton


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Book Club Recommendations

View Vermeer's Paintings while reading the book
by mabook (see profile) 01/22/12
Use a website to find the paintings while reading this, or use an edition which has a reprint of the paintings. It really helps inform the mind's picture while reading, and will give you a fascinating and informative glimpse into this time period.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by bridget c. (see profile) 02/07/20

  "A Very Enjoyable and Informative Book!"by Mary B. (see profile) 01/22/12

Our club really enjoyed this book; a few of us used the edition which showed Vermeer's paintings alongside the text which really helped set the scene for the time and place of the story. The historical... (read more)

  "Girl with a Pearl Earring"by Clara A. (see profile) 01/22/12

  "girl with a pearl earring"by Jennifer Z. (see profile) 07/19/11

We read this book 10 years ago. It was our first book club pick. Now 10 years later, we decided to read again! Our opinion didn't really change. We enjoyed the atmospheric, descriptive nature of thethe... (read more)

  "Girl with the Pearl Earring"by Jane H. (see profile) 07/19/11

The ending is the best part, unfolds beautifully.

  "Dramatc"by Amy R. (see profile) 04/13/11

It was a very moving and engrossing book.

  "Art History"by Laura G. (see profile) 12/29/10

I loved this book and the preface from the author, Tracy Chevalier, pulled it together. The author had owned a print of the picture and was facinated by the Girl with the Pearl Earring. The author brought... (read more)

  "Quiet tension"by Kathryn D. (see profile) 04/14/08

  "Captivating Story of a Maid"by Tory T. (see profile) 01/28/08

I loved the jealoudy that erode from the main characters. And I loved it when she slapped the little girl. Overall I give it a B

  "A possible story behind this famous painting sheds light on Dutch history."by Janeen W. (see profile) 07/17/07

Although everyone enjoyed reading this book, we didn't have many issues to discuss at our meeting. It is a time and place beautifully depicted with many interesting aspects of the struggles and restrictions... (read more)

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